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Gurren Lagann Vol. #05 Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Gurren Lagann Volume 5
Gurren Lagann Volume 5
The scale of the series goes out the window

What They Say:
Team Dai-Gurren defeats the army of the Anti-Spiral, but they know that this is only the beginning. Lordgenome tells them that in order to stop the Anti-Spiral from annihilating humanity, they must find their homeworld within a universe outside normal spacetime and destroy it. With all of his comrades there to fight alongside him, Simon sets out towards space to destroy the Anti-Spiral once and for all and save Nia. The final battle of a man who has realized his destiny begins right here and now!

Contains episodes 23-27 plus a double-sided poster and a 16-page booklet featuring creator interviews and an illustration gallery!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the English language adaptation, both of which are done with the uncompressed PCM design. The show is one that has a good bit of action about it throughout, and some good music as well, which gives it a pretty lively forward soundstage mix. The action covers it well throughout with the back and forth of the action and the impact of the manly machines hitting each other and there’s a decent bit of bass to it to give it a bit more oomph. The dialogue works in a similar manner as there’s a good bit of yelling and intense vocal material that definitely helps to elevate it in a way that completely fits the material. Both tracks are pretty good and the sound design overall is spot on for this series with what it’s trying to accomplish.

Video:
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This portion of the series has five episodes to it that are spread across a single disc. Animated by Gainax, the show is one that definitely has a great design to it even as it works a kind of flat color design. There’s a lot of wild takes and loose animation in a sense where it’s not tied to being spot on realistic in its mechanical sense, but it has a very vibrant and strong look overall. Having watched this in the movie form previously in high definition, a lot of what we get here matches that, though there’s simply more lulls and quieter time here rather than the condensed features. That gives us a more variable bit rate throughout which in the end has us looking at a pretty solid show that really shines in the high impact scenes the most. Colors are strong and solid throughout with nothing in the way of problems such as cross coloration and line noise or anything else of note.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release doesn’t offer much in the way of surprises when it comes to the artwork or design, though they do try to class it up a little bit since we’ve seen the overall look before a few times with prior releases. The show comes in a standard Blu-ray case with a slipcover for it that also holds the couple of extras packed in. The front of the slipcover uses the expected image of Yoko in her three main phases here, which works nicely to show off how she’s evolved over the course of this set The wraparound on it has the discs information and details with it all done cleanly on the front through text while the back side has the technical information. The back cover gives us another good image with Simon standing with his back to the viewer so we get that flash of Kamina there but also a real sense of power. The case itself inside does pretty much the same thing with the image of Simon wrapping around the back which has a look at the whole cast while the reverse side has Yoko’s image on it underneath the disc. Inside the box, we get a pretty good booklet that does a breakdown of the episodes in full color and then has a multi-page interview with the director and some of the designers that really goes into the show and its concepts well. We also get a few great images of the cast and a look at some of the Japanese promotional artwork. Also included is a great doublesided poster where one side gives us Yoko in her classic outfit set against the backdrop of the massive machines while the other side has Simon with some of the guys who have made a huge impact on him supporting him in their own way.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is kind of standard in a way but it also hews a bit towards the Nightjar menus we saw before as we get an angled piece with the red and black spiral stripes moving across the screen while between them we get various images from the series. It does start up with Kamina’s symbol in red against a black background with the volume number on it and it has a slick and polished look to it that definitely fits, but it also feels too familiar in a way. The navigation along the bottom is a small black strip that has the basic selections and individual episode access and it all loads quickly and easily during startup and as a pop-up menu during playback.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gurren Lagann runs hard and fast into its end run of episodes here with the final five that takes the fight directly to the Anti-Spiral forces. This half of the series has been wonderfully intense and epic in scale in so many ways that it’s easy to get caught up in how it plays out. The previous half worked us through the setup for the fight to come, revealing more of what the real enemy is like, bringing Lordgenome into an intriguing role and working Simon through a lot as he tried to do things the old way but finding that it doesn’t always work. Simon’s arc of growth throughout the show has been great to watch as he moved from out of Kamina’s shadow and found true love, lots of friends and a real place in things, only to seemingly swept away. With him coming out of all of that and ready to move forward again, the show has put him in the right kind of position.

With some additional setup moments here at the start now that they know who the true enemy is, we get some good material as Rossiu works through his issues having taken what he feels was the worst approach and is looking to leave public life and find himself again. This is actually a fairly tender series of moments as he returns to his old village and realizes that the ways he railed against is what he basically did himself in trying to save some of humanity while writing off the rest. His time dealing with it definitely has some great moments as he works with the old village leader there, but also in seeing how Simon handles it since the two have had a difficult relationship for a bit, what with Rossiu lining him up for jail, execution and then just letting him sit in a cell as the moon was about to collide with the planet. Simon’s not one to hold a grudge so it’s no surprise that things get settled out, though I liked that Rossiu’s role ended up largely finishing at this point.

Where the show goes from here is what I really like, though it is admittedly about four episodes worth of straight out action. With the ability to essentially teleport through space to where Nia is as she’s been taken to the Anti-Spiral homeworld, they put things together to rechristen the Cathedral Terra as a new Gurren ship and head there to do battle. This brings the majority of the main cast into play as they make their way there and have to face off against an array of Anti-Spiral craft, and the main representation of that race as well. Sacrifices are made, others step up in heroic ways and push themselves beyond their limits and we get a lot of fantastical visual moments as everyone is fighting for not just their own survival, or humanity’s, but that of all Spiral based life forms as the Anti-Spirals have put their boot down hard on so many across the millennia. There’s some good exposition and exploration on this along the way, since we basically get the villain’s speech where they explain why they did what they did.

But as interesting as that is, it’s the action and intensity that sells it. The show started simple oh so many episodes ago with Simon just digging through the dirt and finding his way. As time went on he fought more and more, first with Kamina and then with others, and the size of their opponents change as did their own machines. This grew to a new level as the seven year change came into play, but more so as they dealt with the first wave of Anti-Spiral craft. But it’s here that really makes me love the show as we see Simon taking control of Lordgenome’s former ship and fighting the Anti-Spiral across the stage of the universe, with galaxies being flung around and several scales of power explored at different times as it all comes down to slugging it out with the kind of passion and drive that pushes humanity to the places it does.

This is both the boon and the bane of this series however. The bane of it is that on some level, so much of this intimately familiar, just with different characters. There aren’t shades of Gunbuster, Evangelion and FLCL here, there are plenty of direct adjustments and swipes of their own material. That sense of the familiar can be off-putting after awhile, especially if you’ve been watching Gainax shows since 1989 and have seen everything they’ve done. At the same time, it’s their boon as they have such a unique wealth of material to work with that watching them take it, rework it and refine it is extremely engaging. Familiar costumes, robot designs, settings and even font types are all tweaked and prodded over the years and this is the most current result of it. The way it works from such a small personal relationship between characters and the universe that they know which then grows into a massive sprawling piece where so much is at stake at a much larger level is highly satisfying.

In Summary:
Gurren Lagann as a whole takes us on a journey from a simple, personal desire to not be caged to the ultimate of extremes in ensuring the survival of multiple alien species, pushing mankind and those that we got to know over it to guiding them all to as safe and peaceful a future as they can. Gainax shows that play with distinct halves like this with advances in time periods are my favorite since it shakes things up and definitely pushes the characters in new ways. Following Simon’s journey here is what it’s all about, with a few nods elsewhere, and we get a lot of closure along the way and potential spinoff aspects as well with how mankind has grown and changed. This show is one that really does some great stuff all around with its characters, the familiar story taken to extremes and just the kind of ideas and concepts involved. This release brings it all together and, like the previous volumes, is simply beautiful from top to bottom, making it the best the show has looked or sounded.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: March 3rd, 2015
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 150 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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